You should check your car's air filter once a year. Many people choose to replace the filter at this time, but some mechanics suggest that an air filter can last between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. Depending on how much you drive, you may not reach those numbers in a year. Nevertheless, it is important to take the time to inspect your air filter annually. If the filter looks dirty, it is time to change it.
Do not attempt to clean the filter and reuse it. A new air filter is the best way to ensure that your vehicle performs optimally and remains in top condition. The frequency with which the engine air filter needs to be replaced varies. Maintenance schedules for different vehicle brands differ in how often the air filter needs to be changed. For example, on most Chevrolet engines, the recommended change interval is every 45,000 miles, while Ford suggests every 30,000 miles for many of its engines.
Hyundai also recommends changing the air filter every 30,000 miles, but shortens this interval to 15,000 miles for “severe driving conditions” such as heavy traffic in hot climates and frequent driving on unpaved roads or in dusty conditions. These rules will likely apply to other brands as well. If you drive in such conditions, it may be necessary to replace the air filter more often than once a year. As a general rule of thumb, keep track of how long the air filter has been in place. The recommended average length of service is approximately 10,000 to 15,000 miles, which for most people is approximately once a year.
However, this is just a recommendation and does not take into account your individual driving situation. One of the first signs that you need to replace the air filter - and one of the least damaging - is weak ventilation airflow into the cabin. If you usually drive with the windows closed but notice a layer of dust or pollen slowly starting to settle on the dashboard and other surfaces, it would be wise to take a look at the cabin air filter. Some luxury brands charge more for their parts and require that you only buy cabin air filters of their brand, while others suggest that you can buy a generic cabin air filter at your local automotive store. Most car models manufactured after 2000 are equipped with cabin air filters (and some luxury models even have more than one); however, older models may not have them at all. If you drive in a sandy or dusty area, you may need to change the filter more often than the recommended time for your vehicle.
If you drive regularly on dirt roads, sand, or in areas of high pollution, change filters more often. A good indication that the air filter needs to be replaced is black smoke coming from the exhaust pipes when you start the engine. Dust likely means that the filter is so clogged that those particles cross the filter barrier and reach directly into your face as you drive. If you drive with a lot of traffic on a regular basis, the air filter won't last as long. When the engine air filter is dirty, air cannot pass through the filter to the engine, which affects the entire emission control system of the car. Over time, as dust and dirt build up, the air filter will darken and dirt will be noticeable.
Some mechanics will recommend that you change the cabin air filter during your routine garage visit for regular maintenance. The location of the air filter varies by vehicle; therefore refer to your owner's manual to find out exactly where it is located. Additionally, many cars are equipped with cabin air filters that keep the air fresh inside your car. Without this part, your car's cabin would be filled with every harmful smell and smoke encountered on your trip. One of the most common problems encountered when replacing an engine's air filter is decreased fuel consumption. If your car's air conditioner blows weakly even with its highest fan setting, it may be due to a clogged filter.